Showing the Flag: The Mounted Police and Canadian Sovereignty in the North, 1894-1925

Showing the Flag: The Mounted Police and Canadian Sovereignty in the North, 1894-1925

Showing the Flag: The Mounted Police and Canadian Sovereignty in the North, 1894-1925

Showing the Flag: The Mounted Police and Canadian Sovereignty in the North, 1894-1925

Synopsis

Under their various names the Mounted Police have played a vital, colourful, but often controversial role in Canadian history, and nowhere has this been truer than on the northern frontier. The police were the agents through which the central government asserted sovereignty over the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, just as it had done earlier on the Prairies. This book describes to what extent the RCMP shaped the northern frontier -- a frontier which steadily shifted, separating territory under actual government control from that in which it was nominal. The chapters treat each new spurt in this expansion and the period of contact and transition which followed.

Excerpt

An irony of the history of the Mounted Police in the Yukon is that their most enduring contribution to the Territory lay in the duties they most heartily disliked -- the performance of civil service work. Their establishment of law and order during the gold rush had caught the attention of the world and had made it clear that the Canadian government was determined to assert its sovereignty over the area. But an even more important element in the assertion of sovereignty was the more pedestrian, day-to-day civil duties which regularly made it clear that the Yukon was part of Canada.

These civil duties, as opposed to the strictly regulatory ones, were probably in the long run the most important, and thus it seems a pity that these were the duties the police liked the least. Most members of the force had come to the Yukon expecting to expend their energies catching criminals. Unfortunately, there was also a multitude of civil service tasks given to the police because they were best able to do them, because nobody else would do them at the wages offered, or because the duties were not frequent or heavy enough to necessitate the presence of regular civil servants.

At one time or another, the police performed nearly all the civil service duties in the Yukon for all three levels of government: federal, territorial, and municipal. the list is impressive: for the Department of Justice they kept the penitentiary prisoners and the lunatics and frequently acted as magistrates and justices of the peace. They looked after the welfare of the Indians and ran the Yukon postal service. They acted as land agents and mining recorders for the Department of the Interior.

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